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09/14/10 10:10 PM ET

Pettitte ready to return to Yanks on Sunday

Left-hander feels good after tossing five innings in rehab start

ALTOONA, Pa. -- Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte, sidelined since July 18 with a "persistent small tear" of his left groin, pronounced himself ready to return to the team's rotation Tuesday night.

"It was another good night," he said after a five-inning rehabilitation effort for the Double-A Trenton Thunder in Game 1 of the Eastern League Championship Series vs. the Altoona Curve at Blair County Stadium. "Now what I need is to get back into a Major League game and contribute.

"I felt good after throwing 67 pitches [49 strikes] and 10 more in the bullpen. I was able to get my pitch count up and I'm ready to start in Baltimore Sunday."

The 38-year-old, who was 11-2 with a 2.88 ERA for the Yankees before the groin issue short-circuited his season, allowed two runs on six hits, struck out four, walked one, recorded a wild pitch and allowed a first-inning home run to Altoona second baseman Chase d'Arnaud and a third-inning run on a pair of hits and a wild pitch and passed ball.

Pettitte felt he was not as sharp as he was in his previous rehabilitation start with the Thunder last Thursday. Trenton scored a 3-2, 10-inning win before 5,501 as prospect Andrew Brackman threw five innings of one-hit ball backing up Pettitte.

"I didn't think my mechanics were as sharp early," he said. "The home run was a result of a cutter I left up. When you do that, at any level, that's what happens. I was ahead in the count and didn't bury it.

"After that, I thought I picked it up pretty good. Again, I was glad I pitched well enough for Trenton to have a possibility of pulling the game out."

While Pettitte was pleased with his stamina, and the fact he felt no pain in his groin, he admits he is certainly not where he was prior to July 18.

"With the home run and the two wild pitches, I know I still have some work to do," he said. "I'm certainly not where I was."

So what can the Yankees expect from his Sunday start in Baltimore?

"I know I can give our team 75 or 80 pitches in that start,'' he said. "Otherwise I don't really know what to expect. I just want to get in there. I'm a piece of the puzzle as far as our rotation and our plans are. I've been out a lot longer than I wanted to be and it's been terrible for me.

"What I pride myself on is taking my turn every fifth day, and I've been unable to do that."

Pettitte's best inning was the Altoona fifth, as he managed to pitch out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam. Altoona's Yung Chi Chen reached on an error by Trenton's Justin Snyder, followed by a single to left by d'Arnaud and a bunt single by Josh Harrison.

But Pettitte rebounded by getting Jordy Mercer to ground into a pitcher-to-the-plate-to-first double play, then struck out Matt Hague.

"It was good to get into some trouble, then be able to get out of it," said Pettitte. "It doesn't matter what level it was at. You face those kinds of situations all the time."

Jed Weisberger is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.